When I found out I was HIV-positive, I had just re-entered the United States after a trip to Nigeria, and I was having some pregnancy-related complications. When the doctor told me, I broke down and started crying. I was scared. I felt like I knew absolutely nothing about the illness, and on top of that I was looking at, “Wow, I’m pregnant.” I was already in my second trimester.
My husband is negative, and we use condoms every time so that he stays that way. At the time I found out, he was living in Nigeria. I didn’t tell him I was HIV-positive. He comes from Ghana, where, if the community finds out that you have HIV, you could be ostracized. For him, coming to terms with the fact that his wife is HIV-positive is a big deal. It’s been a journey.
I know I got it sexually, from the man I had been engaged to before my husband. There was nothing that said, “Oh this guy may be sick.” Nothing. But I started experiencing allergies, repeat sinus infections, a fungal yeast infection under my breasts that would not go away, and the lymph nodes behind my ears were swollen for a long time. I was running back and forth to the community health clinic, and no one thought to ask me to get tested for HIV. If you say you’re in a monogamous relationship, they don’t think to ask you to get tested. But guess what? I may be in a monogamous relationship with my partner, but that doesn’t mean my partner is in a monogamous relationship with me.
My son saved my life. The doctor explained to me that with intervention there was less than a 2% chance of passing the virus on to my baby. Moreover, if I had not gotten pregnant with him at the time I did, I wouldn’t have been tested. He put me on track. Now I’m in school for my masters in psychology and counseling. I’m the first person in my family to earn an undergraduate degree. I still shake my head like, “I’m in school for my masters. Wow!” I’ve gone to Washington to speak with legislators, I speak to classrooms, I’ve joined community outreach efforts. None of this was in my life before HIV. And my son has been there pushing me the whole time. He’s happy, he’s vibrant, he’s very energetic. He lets me know that there’s hope.